|In 1790 Haydn had been capellmeister at Esterhaz, the magnificent palace which Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy had created in imitation of Versailles. For nearly a quarter of a century, Esterhaz, though built on an unhealthy site, was the favourite residence of the prince, who never tired of altering, extending, and improving the palace and grounds, and whose greatest ambition was to make the musical and theatrical entertainments given there the best of their kind. In many ways Haydn was most happily situated at Esterhaz, and though his isolated position there became more irksome to him as time went on, he would not, though frequently approached with flattering offers from abroad, leave his well-beloved master, of whom he wrote, in 1776, "My dearest wish is to live and die with him."
The King of Naples, an ardent admirer of the composer, had urged him to go to Naples with him. Haydn's presence was also much desired in Paris, and from London, especially, he had received many overtures. Cramer, the violinist, had written to Haydn in 1781, offering to engage him at his own figure for the Professional Concerts, and Gallini, the owner and manager of the King's Theatre in Drury Lane, urged him to compose an opera for him. Salomon, still more enterprising, in 1789, sent Bland, a well-known music publisher, to treat with Haydn, but without success. The composer gave him the copyright of several of his productions, among them the "Stabat Mater" and "Ariadne," and the "Razirmesser" quartette. This composition is said to derive its name from Haydn's exclaiming one morning, while shaving, "I would give my best quartette for a good razor!" Bland happened to enter the room at that moment, and at once hurried back to his lodgings and, returning with his own razors of good English steel, gave them to Haydn, who thereupon kept his word by tendering in exchange his latest quartette.
The death of Prince Esterhazy, in September, 1790, gave Haydn the opportunity he had long wished for, as Prince Anton, who succeeded Nicolaus, had little taste for music, and dismissed most of the performers, at the same time, however, increasing Haydn's pension of a thousand florins a year, left him by Prince Nicolaus, by the addition of four hundred florins.
Haydn, being now his own master, went to live at Vienna, with his old friend Bamberger, and, declining an invitation to become capellmeister to Count Grassalcovics, was working with his usual industry when, one day, a visitor was announced. He turned out to be Salomon, the London manager, who, on his way back from Italy, whither he had been to engage singers for the Italian opera in London, had heard of the prince's death, and hastened at once to Vienna in the hope of inducing Haydn to visit England. This, after much negotiation, was at last accomplished. Mozart, to whom Haydn was like a father, felt the separation deeply, and vainly strove to prevent it. He said to Haydn: "Papa, you have not been brought up for the great world; you know too few languages." Haydn replied: "But my language is understood by the whole world." Mozart spent the day of his departure with him, and bade him farewell in tears, saying, "We shall see each other no more in this world!" a presentiment which was sadly fulfilled.
Haydn and Salomon left Vienna on the 15th of December, 1790, and journeyed by way of Munich, Bonn, and Brussels to Calais, where they arrived on the evening of December 31st. At half-past seven the next morning they embarked for Dover, but, the wind being contrary, they had a stormy passage, and did not reach the English port until five in the afternoon. Haydn, whose first voyage it was, remained on deck the whole time, in spite of the unfavourable weather.
His first impressions of London, then a city of less than a million people, were of its great size and its noise. Many times the composer must have longed for the comparative quiet of Esterhaz, or of his own study in Vienna.
An amusing anecdote is told of Haydn in London. One morning he came upon a music shop, and, going in, asked to be shown any novelties that might be for sale.
"Certainly," answered the salesman, who forthwith brought out "some sublime music of Haydn's," as he termed it.
"Oh, I'll have nothing to do with that," said the customer.
"Why not?" asked the man, who happened to be a warm admirer of Haydn's music. "Have you any fault to find with it?"
"Yes," said the composer, "and if you can show me nothing better than that, I must go without making a purchase."
"Well, then, you had better go, for I've nothing that I can supply as suitable for such as you," and Mr. Shopman walked away.
Before Haydn could reach the door, however, a gentleman entered, who was known not only to him, but to the music publisher. He greeted the composer by name, and began to congratulate him upon his latest symphony produced at Salomon's concerts. The music seller turned around upon hearing the name of Haydn, and said, "Ah! here's a musician who does not like that composer's music."
The gentleman at once saw the joke, and, explaining the matter to the dealer, they all had a hearty laugh over the incident.
Haydn was received with the warmest hospitality in London, and, like many other "lions," was at no little pains to secure sufficient time for his work amid the pressure of social engagements and the visits of celebrities of all kinds. Doctor Burney, the musical historian, with whom the composer had corresponded, wrote a poem in his honour. This appeared in the Monthly Review, and its concluding stanza runs as follows:
"Welcome, great master! to our favoured isle,
Already partial to thy name and style;
Long may thy fountain of invention run
In streams as rapid as it first begun;
While skill for each fantastic whim provides,
And certain science ev'ry current guides!
Oh, may thy days, from human sufferings free,
Be blest with glory and felicity,
With full fruition, to a distant hour,
Of all thy magic and creative power!
Blest in thyself, with rectitude of mind,
And blessing, with thy talents, all mankind."
Less pleasant than such tributes was an experience Haydn had with a noble pupil, who called upon him, saying that he was passionately fond of music, and would be grateful if the composer would give him a few lessons in harmony and counterpoint, at a guinea a lesson.
"Oh, willingly!" answered Haydn; "when shall we begin?"
"Immediately, if you see no objection," and the nobleman took out of his pocket one of Haydn's quartettes. "For the first lesson," said he, taking the initiative, "let us examine this quartette, and you tell me the reason of some modulations which I will point out to you, together with some progressions which are contrary to all rules of composition."
Haydn did not object to this course, and the gentleman proceeded. The initial bar of the quartette was first attacked, and but few of the succeeding ones escaped the critical comments of the dilettante.
The composer's reply as to why he did this or that was very simple. "I did it," he said, "because I thought it would have a good effect."
Such a reply did not satisfy "my lord," who declared that his opinion of the composition as ungrammatical and faulty would be unchanged unless Haydn could give him some better reason for his innovations and errors.
This nettled Haydn, who suggested that the pupil (?) should rewrite the quartette after his own fashion. But, like many other would-be critics, he declined to undertake the task, contenting himself with impugning the correctness of Haydn's work. "How can yours, which is contrary to the rules, be the best?" he repeatedly asked Haydn.
At last the composer's patience was exhausted. "I see, my lord," said he, "it is you who are so good as to give lessons to me. I do not want your lessons, for I feel that I do not merit the honour of having such a master as yourself. Good morning."
Haydn then left the room, and sent his servant to show the man out.
One of Haydn's biographers says that the composer soon gauged the musical taste of the English public, and rearranged most of his compositions written earlier, before producing them in London. "Our national manners in the concert-room would seem to have descended to us from our grandfathers, for we find Haydn doubting as to which of two evils he shall choose: whether to insist on his stipulated composition being placed in the first or the second part of each concert's programme. In the former case its effect would be marred by the continual noisy entrance of late comers, while in the latter case a considerable portion of the audience would probably be asleep before it began. Haydn chose this, however, as the preferable alternative, and the loud chord (Paukenschlag) of the andante in the 'Surprise' symphony is said to have been the comical device he hit upon for rousing the slumberers."
Haydn was very desirous that one of his compositions should be performed at an Ancient Music Concert in London, but one of their rules was to admit only work by composers who had been dead twenty years. The management would make no exception, even for Haydn, and it was not until forty-one years later that they produced a composition by him,—the "Let there be Light," from the "Creation."
One of the pleasantest incidents of Haydn's visit to England occurred in November, when he made a visit of three days to Oatlands Park as a guest of the Duke of York, who was spending his honeymoon there with his young bride, the Princess of Prussia. "The sight of the kind German face and the familiar sound of the German tongue of the musician, whose name had been a household word to her ever since she could speak, must have been more than welcome to the little transplanted bride (she was only seventeen), and Haydn writes tenderly to Frau v. Genzinger (December 20th) how the 'liebe Kleine' sat close by his side all the time he was playing his symphony, humming the familiar airs to herself, and urging him to go on playing until long past midnight."
Upon his second visit to London, Haydn received many attentions from the royal family, especially from the Prince and Princess of Wales. The prince had a taste for music at once genuine and intelligent. He played the violoncello, and took his place in the orchestra in the concerts given at Carlton House, his brothers, the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland, playing the violin and viola.
When Haydn returned to Vienna, he carried with him, besides the substantial sum gained by his art, many presents from friends and admirers. One of the most original souvenirs was received from William Gardiner, a Leicester manufacturer and a great lover of music, who wrote a book entitled "Music and Friends." His gift consisted of six pairs of stockings, into which were woven airs from Haydn's compositions, the "Emperor's Hymn," the "Surprise" andante, and others.